Sunday, September 30, 2018

Last-Lap Pass Makes Hailie Deegan First Female Winner in NASCAR K&N Pro Series History

Credit: Loren Orr/NASCAR via Getty Images

by Beth Reinke

It’s every young racer’s dream to take the lead after the white flag and earn the checkered. For 17-year-old Hailie Deegan, that dream materialized during Saturday night’s NAPA Auto Parts/Idaho 208 at Meridian Speedway, when she passed teammate Cole Rouse on the final lap.

In the historic win, Deegan became the first woman to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series race in the series’ 64-year running.

Just in case the opportunity materialized, Deegan prepared herself by mentally rehearsing the last-lap move before she went to sleep the night before the race.

“I was in bed last night thinking, ‘If it comes down, last lap, I’m in second, I’m a car length off of him, what am I going to do?'” Deegan said. “And I found that Turn 1 spot. I knew exactly what I had to do there. I was doing it to some other people, just getting right under them to get them a little light, to get them, not wrecking loose, nothing crazy, but enough to just get a little under them and make the pass happen.

“I knew exactly what I had to do the last lap. I did it, we executed, and we made it happen.”

Deegan has two runner-up finishes this year, one at Douglas County Speedway in June and another at Las Vegas on Sept. 13, where she also became the first woman in the series to start on the pole. In 12 starts this season, the Temecula, California, native posted five top fives and 10 top 10s.

Rouse, who finished second in the No. 99 for Bill McAnally Racing for the third time in four races, was none too happy about his teammate’s maneuver.

“We were going into Turn 1 … and she doesn’t lift and drives into me, gets me completely sideways,” Rouse said. “We were going to win that race if it was run clean, but unfortunately it wasn’t. I’m just going to go into the next two races, not give her any slack, and we’re going to win both of those. It was a good night, but I don’t really care about second, honestly.”

The win puts Deegan in the lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. She sits fourth in the K&N Pro West standings behind Derek Thorn, Ryan Partridge, Rouse and Derek Kraus.

“This has to be the best day of my life right here,” Deegan said in Victory Lane. “It doesn’t get any better than this. People don’t understand how many days, how many hours I’ve put into this, how much work I’ve done to get to this moment. It’s just amazing. This is the happiest day of my life. We did it. Woo hoo!”

Watch Deegan in action when the NAPA Auto Parts/Idaho 208 airs on Friday Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN.



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